Clare Kehoe, Trinity ‘19, was on her way to take the Medical College Admission Test when her longtime friend Morgan Rodgers texted her a video.
Kehoe—who had known Rodgers since seventh grade—instinctively knew it was going to be something inspirational, and she was not mistaken. Rodgers had sent her a three-minute video, using sticky notes with individual words and phrases to write out a good-luck message, a gesture Kehoe said exemplified Rodgers’ compassionate nature.
"That was a perfect example of how thoughtful she was,” she said. “No matter what she herself was going through or how busy she was with lacrosse or trying to deal with her injury, she always put her friends first.”
Rodgers, who died July 11, is remembered for her warmth, humor and selflessness. Her friends gushed about how funny and outgoing she was. Rodgers lived in Warrenton, Va., and is survived by her parents, Dona and Kurt, as well her twin sister, Aberle, and brother, Austin.
A psychology major, Rodgers played on the varsity women’s lacrosse team for three and a half years. In the winter of her sophomore year, she suffered a devastating knee injury. Rodgers worked hard to get back on the field but ultimately left the varsity team before the Spring 2019 semester.
“Morgan was living her dream life: Student-Athlete at Duke University, lots of friends, loved her classes—even made the ACC Academic Honor Roll freshman year,” her family wrote in a statement to The Chronicle. “Two weeks before the opening scrimmage of her sophomore year, after a very successful fall season, she suffered a career ending injury to her knee. Her life as she knew it had changed. She would work for the next two years tirelessly to bring her body back to the level where she could control her path, but it didn't cooperate. Even though her athletic career was over, she still loved Duke and all the people associated with it. She was deeply loved by numerous friends, teammates and family and will be missed by many.”
However, her playing days were not finished. She joined the club lacrosse team this past spring, where she was determined to make her teammates better. Kehoe said that although Rodgers could have adopted a condescending attitude after moving from varsity to club level, she remained focused on improving the team.
“Morgan exemplified a good teammate,” senior Caitlin Luby wrote in an email. “She lit a bit of a fire in the rest of us.”
Sophomore Bryn Wilson said that Rodgers’ presence made the team feel like a family to her and heightened her sense of belonging at Duke. They roomed together during the team’s trip to Santa Barbara, Calif., and Wilson described how much she enjoyed Rodgers’ “bouncing-off-the-walls energy” and genuine friendship.
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One night during the spring, Wilson was busy studying in Lilly Library, and Rodgers texted her to see what she was up to. Out of nowhere, Rodgers mentioned that she was shopping at Harris Teeter and volunteered to buy Wilson groceries. Wilson was adamant that she didn’t need anything, but Rodgers went the extra mile.
“Morgan showed up to Lilly Library 30 minutes later on a Saturday night with bags of groceries for me, of things I didn't even ask for,” Wilson said. Rodgers wouldn’t let her pay for them either.
That’s just the kind of person she was, her friends explained. Rodgers always found time to make others feel loved and supported. Kehoe remembers times when Rodgers would text her to go check her apartment door and there’d be cute little surprises, especially when Kehoe had a test or needed a boost.
Senior Haley Schleicher’s fondest memory of Rodgers was belting out “Stuck in the Moment” by Justin Bieber in Schleicher’s dorm room.
“My favorite memories with Morgs range from having home cooked meals at her apartment, listening to music together on the patio, to talking more intentionally about life's hurdles,” she wrote in an email. “I am grateful for these moments spent getting to know each other and will always cherish our friendship.”
Besides being a great friend and lacrosse player, Rodgers was also a talented artist. Kehoe explained that when Rodgers took up drawing to keep busy while recovering from her knee injury. She’d fill up sketchbooks with intricate geometric patterns and portraits, and give some of her artwork to friends like Kehoe.
Rodgers’ friends adored her wonderful sense of humor as well. She was known for sending people funny videos of herself to make them laugh, and Wilson said she’d frequently dance at club lacrosse practice to crack everyone up.
“Morgan was HILARIOUS,” Luby wrote. “Many people have said this since she passed, but her humor was so unique to her. If you understood it and got to enjoy it, consider yourself so lucky.”
Even though Luby and Wilson only had a semester with Rodgers on the club lacrosse team, they both said that she treated them with the love and generosity shared between deeply cherished friends.
“She made everyone around her feel so loved, and she was so loved herself as well,” Wilson said.